New or soon-to-be grandparents often comment on how things have changed – the baby equipment, the rules during pregnancy, ways to raise a child. Going shopping for a stroller, baby bed, etc. often leads to surprises about all the new paraphernalia.

That was my experience, too, and it carried over into the doctor’s office when I went for a flu shot.  After announcing to the receptionist that I was going to be a grandma, she said, “Make sure you get your whooping cough vaccine.”  I knew that babies are given certain vaccines, including the one for whooping cough, but finding out that grandparents should also be vaccinated came as a surprise. And, come to find out, there are others that are also recommended, but it is best to check with your doctor.

In fact, expectant parents often attend classes to learn about what to expect.  And, most recently a class leader told the group, “Anyone who is going to hold your baby must get the whooping cough vaccine – and the flu shot.”   

The whooping cough vaccine, called Tdap (covering tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), is needed a few months to a few weeks prior to the birth of the child. Parents, as well as others who will often be around the baby, should get the whooping cough vaccine.  Although whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is not serious for adults with its irritating cough that lasts for several weeks, it can be a deadly disease for children under two.

Most people over the age of 50 get the shingle vaccine.  Shingles occur in people who had chickenpox and causes extreme pain due to a spreading skin rash.  A person with the active shingles virus can pass it to a child through skin contact; instead of shingles, the child will get chickenpox.  The shingle vaccine protects both seniors and children. It is recommended to get the two-dose vaccine, whether or not someone recalls ever having the chickenpox.   

A yearly flu shot serves as protection for people of all ages from influenza. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine. Although last year’s flu epidemic hit the elderly, children can also be hit hard with flu complications. Children under six months are not eligible to receive a flu shot, and children under five often experience serious complications if they get the flu.  It is important for adults to not only protect themselves, but also the children they are around.

The MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine might be another vaccine to consider; it is best to ask your doctor.  It is recommended for people born after 1957.  If born prior to 1957, people are generally considered immune to the measles.

Pneumonia is the most common cause of death worldwide for children under the age of five. The CDC recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for adults over the age of 65 and children under the age of two.
To avoid being told you can’t come see or hold the newborn, be sure to take the right steps and get your needed vaccines. As with most health concerns, it is advised to talk with one’s doctor.

Cinda Ackerman Klickna had a grandson born in February.

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